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welcome to nhk world "newsline." i'm gene otani in tokyo. here's a look at some of the stories we're following this hour. we have the latest from beijing, as premier li keqiang has laid out china's growth targets at the beginning of the national people's congress. western leaders want russia to end ukrainian officials to sit down face-to-face to resolve the standoff over crimea. and a team of japanese researchers have released
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technical tips for creating stem cells that can be turned into any kind of tissue. china's biggest political event of the year is under way in beijing. president xi jinping and his administration are meeting delegates of the country's legislature, the national people's congress. reform is high on the agenda, as the leadership aims for long-term stability. we're bringing you extensive coverage of the npc this week in our series "china: road to reform." nhk world's raja pradhan was at the opening of the npc and he joins us now live. raja? >> hi, gene. chinese premier li keqiang opened the annual gathering of the political elite by outlining plans for the year ahead. he addressed npc delegates announcing an economic growth target of around 7.5%. and premier li also addressed
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complaints about corruption, pollution, and the gap between rich and poor. delegates from across china gathered at the great hall of the people to hear the government's accomplishments, and goals for the year ahead. this is li keqiang's first time to deliver the government work report. he's officially confirmed as premier at this very event last year. >> translator: last year was the first year for our government. and its mission was difficult and heavy. >> reporter: premier li said the national government's first task was to change how things were being done. it did so by transferring more authority to other levels of government, and to the private sector. he then talked about the economy, saying maintaining a growth target of around 7.5% would build trust among investors, and help restructure the economy.
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the defense budget has seen double digit growth almost every year since 1989, and that will continue. this year's defense spending will increase by more than 12% to about $130 billion. li said the government will do more to address concerns about pollution, and the wealth gap. >> translator: air, water and soil pollution is severe in some places. and the task of conserving energy and reducing emissions remains arduous. >> reporter: and he promised the government will severely punish public servants and others involved in corruption. after the session we asked some delegates about li's report. >> translator: i think the campaign against corruption should be more tightened up. it's also set out in report. only in doing so the government could do its own duty. >> this i think is a basement,
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there will be some problem. so we need to do things step by step. >> let's now talk more about the government work report. nhk world kyoko fujita spent the day going through it. let's start by talking about the 7.5% economic growth target. what's behind the decision to maintain that figure? >> well, this is very much what china's economy from one that's export led to one that relies more on domestic consumptiocons. here's more of what premier li had to say. >> translator: we set the growth target at around 7.5%, because we considered that was necessary. and feasible. >> since coming into power last year, president xi and premier li have been focusing on quality over speed when it comes to economic growth.
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they said the emphasis on rapid development led to problems such as the destruction of the environment and widening gap between rich and poor. at the same time, the leaders don't want to lower the growth target too much, because that could spread a pessimistic view that china's economy, and possibly even destabilize the global economy. so, the leadership has decided to keep the growth target at around 7.5%. but if you look at the actual breakdown, you will see this year's target for exports is actually half a percent lower than last year's. so this indicates china is speeding up efforts to reform its economic structure. >> now, economics aside, what else stood out at the government work report? >> well, one interesting highlight is the proposed budget for domestic security. the government plans to spend 205 billion yuan or about $33 billion on police to maintain public security.
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that's up 6.1% from last year. this year's combined budgets offer central and local governments for internal security have not been disclosed. but as you can see on the chart, since 2007, total spending on internal security has increased steadily. and since 2011, public security costs have outstripped national defense spending that trend is expected to continue for this year, as well. and there is cause for concern. protests have erupted against corruption, and the government's policies, on ethnic minorities. so this huge budget on public security shows the leadership's resolve not to allow domestic discontent to disrupt stability at home. >> thank you very much kyoko. and the widening gap between rich and poor here in china is one of the other big issues. npc delegates will be discussing. we'll have a special report on that when our coverage continues
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on thursday. but that's all for me and the team in beijing for now. i'll hand it back to you in tokyo. gene? >> raja, thanks. raja pradhan in beijing. a nation of 1.3 billion. a wealth of views, perspectives, and problems. chinese leaders examine the issues at their annual national people's congress. president xi jinping faces a long list of challenges. find out how he plans to tackle them. don't miss our special coverage, "china: road to reform" at these times, right here on "newsline." western leaders are trying to find a way to calm the crisis in ukraine. u.s. president barack obama has been discussing ideas with german chancellor angela merkel. white house officials say the leaders spoke by phone. they expressed grave concern
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about what they see as russia's violation of ukrainian sovereignty. obama and merkel reportedly agreed to work to the to stabilize ukraine's economy. they promised to support the interim government until a presidential election scheduled for may. they agreed on the need to send international observers, and for russia and ukraine to hold direct talks. ukraine's interim prime minister arseny yatsenyuk said ministry level talks with russia have already begun. russian president vladimir putin said on tuesday that he's ready to use force in ukraine, if necessary, but he said no action is needed at this point. russia's leaders are turning up the financial pressure on their counterparts in ukraine. they say they'll no longer offer discounts on natural gas. putin struck a deal in december with then-president yanukovych. he offered to cut the price of gas by 30% by executives with russia's state controlled gas
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producer gazprom say they decided to cansing the contract from the beginning of next month. gazprom executives say they're canceling the discounts because ukraine owes the company money. they say the debts amount to about $2 billion. chinese president xi jinping says he believes russian leaders can reach a political solution to the crisis. officials at china's foreign ministry say xi spoke with putin over the phone. the officials say xi described the developments in ukraine as accidental, and that they have elements of the inevitable. the remark appears to suggest that chinese leaders are sympathetic to russia's position based on the history of crimea. russia annexed the peninsula in the 18th century. it became part of ukraine during the soviet era. xi told putin that china supports mediation efforts by the international community. the remark is seen as a check on moves by western nations to impose sanctions on russia.
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japanese prime minister shinzo abe says his government will respond strategically to the crisis. he made the remarks at an upper house budget committee meeting. abe said the national security council will weigh japan's ties with the u.s., the european union, russia, and the international community before deciding its policy. >> translator: the national security council has a key role in monitoring the ukraine crisis, and is working with relevant government agencies. we are watching the situation closely, and will respond appropriately. >> foreign minister fumio kishida said japan should closely monitor how other countries in the eu coordinate their positions. he added the government's bilateral arrangements with russia remain unchanged for now. market jitters over ukraine have settled for now in asia, but it was a mixed session overall. and ramin mellegard from the biz team is here with more on that. >> gene, there was a rebound of
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sorts that we saw in the equity markets. but again, a little bit of hesitancy, as well. stock trading in europe is sluggish on wednesday. the positive momentum from russian president's comment did not continue for longer than a day. the markets in the region rallied on the previous day after putin said there's no need for military action for now. here's how the major indices are doing at this hour. london's ftse, and frankfurt's dax, and paris' cac 40, all trading lower. market players shrugged off the eurozone's revised gdp for the last quarter of 2013, which was left unchanged from the former figure. the economy grew by 0.3% from the previous quarter. earlier in asia trading, tokyo and sydney gained, as investors were relieved by putin's comment. but shanghai and hong kong declined as you can see there on the screens. china's economic growth target of 7.5% was in line with market
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expectations. let's have a check on currencies, as well. euro is now trading -- the euro/yen is 140.44-47. retail sales in january beat the forecast in the single currency area. but traders are waiting for more cues from the european central banks' policy decision on thursday. dollar is currently trading at 102.38-39. currency movements are expected to be limited ahead of the release of the beige book, the federal reserve's report on regional economic activity. that's due out later in the day. now government officials in the asia pacific are worried it's taking too long to craft a regional free trade deal. ministers from 12 countries last month failed to come to terms. but u.s. trade officials say they hope to close the transpacific partnership deal by the end of the year. american officials released a report on trade policy on tuesday, saying a lot of progress has been made toward an
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agreement in the u.s.-led tpp talks. asia pacific trade ministers last month made progress in intellectual property and other categories. but the u.s. and japan didn't see eye to eye on farm tariffs. american officials say they hope to clinch a deal that removes as many tariffs as possible by the end of the year. they say japan's participation in the talks has made the tpp more worthwhile. u.s. officials also say they plan to step up bilateral negotiations on autos, and insurance, and nontariff areas. meanwhile, japanese government officials briefed representatives from about 109 industry groups, that's on the outcome of the tpp talks last month. the officials noted a resolution adopted by agricultural committees of both chambers of the diet. it urges the government to keep tariffs on agricultural products in five key categories. such as rice and meat. after the briefing, a representative of the japan
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livestock industry association said he acknowledges the government's stance in the talks. >> translator: we understand the government's efforts at the tpp negotiations in line with the resolution in the diet. but we still basically want tariffs to stay in place on key farm products. >> he also said he wants the government to ensure cattle farmers can maintain their production even if tariffs are reduced. >> >> the operator of uniqlo has listed its shares on the hong kong stock exchange. the japanese casual clothing retailer aims to boost its profile in asia through the listing. a ceremony marking retailing's first overseas trading debut was held at the stock exchange on wednesday morning. about 100 people, including hong kong's political and business
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leaders, attended the ceremony. >> it is our honor and pleasure to be here with you. i hope our relationship lasts for a long time. >> the company chairman also expressed his hope that the uniqlo brand will be loved in hong kong, mainland china, and other asian countries. fast retailing has been actively opening stores in china, where the economy keeps growing. but the firm is facing tough competition with its european and american rivals in emerging markets. government officials from the middle east are visiting tokyo to take a look at the latest solar power technologies. many nations in the region are promoting the use of renewable energy for power generation. 16 officials in charge of energy policy and researchers attended a seminar held at a research facility of toshiba.
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they are from countries such as united arab emirates and kuwait. they asked about the costs needed to put the solar power technology into practice, and maintain the devices. >> coming to japan and learning from the different research institutions, and the private companies, it gives us a big window of what can we do and how we can learn from other experts. >> translator: we see business opportunities overseas. we consider the middle east as a market with great potential. >> oil producing countries in the middle east are promoting green energy, aiming to switch from petroleum to renewable sources for producing electricity. that's all for business news for this hour. i'll leave you with a check on the markets.
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commanders at the pentagon have re-examined their strategies. they say they'll shift their focus on the army and move toward more air and naval power. pentagon leaders laid out their plans in what's called the quadrennial defense review. they stress the importance of the asia-pacific region but they said there are still many friction points in the middle east. >> it's continuing the transitions from the wars of the last decade in walk and afghanistan, to looking at future threats, and looking at what our joint force needs to -- needs to be able to do in the next 10 to 20 years. >> the review says by the year 2020, 60% of u.s. navy assets will be stationed in the
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pacific. that will include enhancements to the naval presence in japan. u.s. troops withdrew from iraq more than two years ago. and american forces plan to wrap up combat operations in afghanistan by the year end. the review says the size of the army will be reduced to about 440,000 soldiers. commanders say their forces need to be ready for any type of operation. so they plan to introduce the next generation of planes, ships and submarines. the review says they'll increase their technical supremacy through improvements to unmanned aircraft and the technology used to fight hackers. a senior u.s. official has spoken about the importance of japan and south korea as allies in the asia-pacific. and he says improving relations between them is a diplomatic priority. u.s. assistant secretary of state daniel russel is in charge of east asian and pacific affairs. he told a senate hearing that the friction between tokyo and seoul is a cause of concern. >> the u.s. has both an interest
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and a role, not as a mediator, but as a friend, and as a partner, that is a role that we are pursuing. >> russel said the u.s. and japan were wartime enemies who became close allies. he said this could serve as a model for asian nations still at odds over historical issues. congressional researchers released a report last month saying deteriorating ties between japan and south korea could hurt u.s. interests. barack obama plans to visit both countries in april. a group of japanese scientists has released technical tips for using stimulus to make stem cells that can be turned in to any tissue or organ. the researchers released the dong up the as scientists around the world have failed to make the cells according to the new technique announced late january. haruko obokata and her team at the riken center for development biology released the document.
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the researchers have listed procedures to create a pre-programming phenomenon called stap or stimulus acquisition of pluripotency. the group is advising other researchers to take extra care when stimulating cells. they also suggest using cells from male mice to ensure purity when culturing them. the team was responding to calls from the scientific community for more details, as nobody has succeeded in verifying the method. critics have pointed out slight irregularities in the papers reporting the breakthrough. but riken has yet to complete its inquiry into the allegations. people who experienced the disaster in northeastern japan three years ago are reliving what they went through. tens of thousands of first responders heeded the call following the earthquake and tsunami. among them, members of the self-defense forces. >> reporter: 100,000 members of the self-defense forces took
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part in rescue operations in the aftermath of march 11. it was the biggest-ever deployment in the history of the sdf. the sixth artillery regiment is based in fukushima prefecture. the 500 members of the regiment searched for people after the quake and tsunami struck. the commanding officer at that time was amazed by their dedication. >> the members of the camp wanted to go further, even to sunset they want to search and rescue. the hardest mission to me is to stop them. >> reporter: some members of the regiment lost family members, and their homes. but, they put their troubles aside, and focused on their mission.
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>> more than 15 members of camp kurayama, i heard at a later time, i heard that they have lost their families. but they didn't even say anything. >> reporter: the japan self-defense forces rescued a total of 20,000 earthquake and tsunami victims. he says many of his troops think they could have saved more people. >> there is still missing people, thousands of people missing. i feel very sad about that. our mission is to prepare for the future disaster. to make our plan much better for the preparation. >> reporter: he believes the experience has made his troops better prepared to deal with future disasters. heavy rain in tokyo. our meteorologist robert speta has more. robert? >> yes, gene. what we are seeing out here
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today is several low pressure areas just kind of sweeping across the country of japan, and bringing some heavy rain showers. now the good news, it is tapering off here on wednesday evening. tokyo already starting to see some clearer skies work its way in throughout the rest of the evening hours. and already, we have seen some pretty high totals farther down towards the southwest. one location reported some of its heaviest rainfall for the month of march, up to about 150 millimeters in just a 24-hour period out here. now this system is going to continue to work its way towards the northeast. the good news behind it. look at this, sunny skies really setting up throughout the rest of the week across much of the pacific coast of japan. but on the other hand we are still seeing still some heavy snowfall over towards northwestern parts of tohoku off towards hokkaido, as well. the sea-effect snow machine. we always talk about it. the northwesterly winds coming across the sea of japan and just piling upwards about 50 centimeters of snow accumulating there. but staying dry on the pacific coast. at least until the latter part of the weekend. we could see a little change in
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the forecast here. and that is because, well, already starting to happen here in southeastern china, heavy rain showers around 30 to 50 millimeters expected in the next 24 hours. that's just going to linger south of the yangtze river basin before it makes a move on towards the east. hong kong you're going to be looking at some drizzly weather. as for as the tropics, the northeast monsoon still dominating down here. partly cloudy skies will be in the forecast with temperatures into the low 30s. let's see what else is going on, though, over towards the americas, where the northwest still dealing with a storm system out here. widespread 30 to 50 millimeters of rainfall expected in some of the low-lying areas, even into the coastal regions of the pacific northwest off towards b.c. that's going to continue to impact here. really amazed with this is the rapid snow melt with some warming temperatures and the risk of avalanche. that combined with flash flooding. so a lot of stuff happening in the mountains. even freezing rain towards wyoming as this continues to drift east. farther towards the east into the northeast you have been dealing with some bitterly cold
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temperatures. this is the second time this has happened this year. i want to show you some images just south of toronto, at niagara falls just outside of buffalo, new york, here. very eerie, and it's because of this frozen niagara falls. the water actually froze up here at a few locations. very rare to see this happen let alone twice in one year. made for some very beautiful imagery there. but definitely not pleasant for people who are out and about hoping for warmer weather. at least at the beginning of march. should be a little bit warmer by now. chicago with minus 3 there just for the high. toronto at minus 4. even down towards the south into the teens. you're been seeing some rain showers, even thunderstorm activity across the gulf states. now, the good news is that we are going to be seeing a little bit of a warming trend throughout the rest of the week. so finally starting to feel a little bit more like it should be for this time of year. getting up to average in washington, d.c., over towards atlanta, and even down towards new orleans. now, as far as europe is concerned, well, the central parts of the continent we are
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seeing some warming out here and high pressure is just going to be dominating towards the north. still wet and windy conditions across northern parts of the british isles, over towards the scandinavian peninsula. you're going to see some snowfall. down here towardses the south it definitely is going to be the big sun with the high pressure in place. and then, over towards italy, some thunderstorms. a few thunderstorm advisories in effect here, and also over towards the balkan peninsula, continuing to remain those thunderstorms through the next several days. here's the extended forecast.
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that's "newsline" for this hour. i'm gene owe tan if i in tokyo. 
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>> welcome back to the "france 24" newsroom. here are the headlines this hour. u.s. secretary of state john kerry is sitting down with russian foreign minister sergei laufer of. -- serge a laufer off. ready to give is ukraine a billion dollar aid package. are meeting onov the sidelines of the support meeting for lebanon aiming at helping the country better manage its security and the growing number of refugees from syria. the annual congress in china gets underway. the government is promising to transform the world's second-largest economy with

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